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Voice: Is fun being taken out of high school?

April 03, 2001

Today my ninth-grade son was suspended from school for saying something foolish. He repeated a quip, "The road shall run red with the blood of the gringo!" during lunch at Brawley Union High School.

Since he is about as "gringo" as you can get, it seems obvious it is just a joke. Unfortunately, all the Santana and Granite Hills incidents have removed the humor from high school.

As his parents, we have spoken to him about trying to be sensitive to the fears of others, especially after his older brother was suspended earlier this year for doing something equally silly (playing with a toy gun off campus but during school hours).

I am sure there are many who would say we have been delinquent as parents if our kids do goofy things. But the point is, that both incidents were just cases of kids with a bit of imagination and humor playing around. I personally refuse to inhibit my children from exercising their imagination or trying to make the world laugh where a bit of humor is appropriate.

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That seems to be the crux of the matter: when and where is playing appropriate? When I was growing up, it seemed that high school was a safe place to be a bit goofy. And I went to a high school that was on the cover of a national magazine, listed as "The toughest school in America" (Hueneme High, another school that had a shooting incident this year.) In fact, I remember having long running water gun fights during school and getting my water guns confiscated.

I'm not bemoaning the loss of innocence. We weren't innocent anymore than my sons. But all the Columbines are taking away the humor, good cheer and tolerance that the adult establishment had toward the kids in school. Perhaps the punishments my sons received are appropriate in today's high school environment, but what is most disappointing to me is how badly all of our children suffer when fun is sucked out of the high school experience.

What I want is that we balance the need for a concern of safety with a realization that 99.9 percent of our children aren't homicidal. They are the mix of hormones, hope, anxiety, fun, love and wonder that make teen-age years so confusing and amazing. If we let our fears of violence rule our schools, we let the abundance of life be suppressed. Then those few violent people win.

JIM HITE

Brawley

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